Workers’ Notes: Campaigning for peace in north Wales

by Ray Jones

ON 29th June the Conwy Peace Group held a public meeting in Llandudno attended by about 30 people under the title Plan for Peace, Resist Militarism.

David Gannon from, Veterans for Peace UK, told how he left the Army after an injury and how ex-squaddies were left to the NHS and charities to be cared for, with a third of them “not in a functioning condition”, and many homeless and suicidal.

He also gave an interesting and in places a deep analysis of the roots of militarism in our society, which included the profits from weapons, the drive for private ownership in the Forces and war as a “tool of austerity”.

Veterans for Peace do not call for immediate disarmament by Britain but for Britain to become a permanently neutral country, which would mean: it would protect the territory of the UK; develop an independent defence policy; expel foreign military personnel; withdraw from treaties that would involve it in a future war; and undertake not to attack other countries nor enter into wars between them.

Compared with Britain’s recent imperialist wars this would be a great step forwards of course and may make the basis of immediate demands. But it does not take into account the economic pressures that are rooted in our capitalist society and which David seemed to be aware of elsewhere in his talk.

Communists recognise that coercive force is a factor in any state, and the question is which class controls the force and the state. We are not pacifists, and we see the work against the reactionary and imperialist activities of the British armed forces as part of the fight for socialism. We see the attempt by the Tories to promote and glorify the Armed Forces as part of their efforts to boost support for their imperialist programme and therefore to be resisted.

The second speaker was Rhianna Louise from Armed Forces Watch UK, which she explained was mainly a research and support organisation. She gave the recent example of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s claim that the Forces are a successful source of social mobility. No doubt you could find individual cases where this was true, said Rhianna, but in actual fact there were not enough statistics available to support the sweeping claims he made.

What we do know however, is that a third of under 18s joining the Army leave or are discharged before even finishing their training. So it can hardly be doing much for their social mobility. We also know that formal education in the Army is generally poor. Rhianna also congratulated Conwy Peace Group for its forthcoming protests against Armed Forces Day, the arrangements for which were outlined when the speakers had finished.

Campaigners were out the following day to counter Armed Forces Day in Llandudno. This relatively new event, aimed to bolster Britain’s imperialist foreign policy, gave the town the very doubtful honour of a visit from Princess Anne and Prime Minister May.

Prior to the event Conwy county officers took the expected fawning positions, and rubbed their hands with glee at the prospect of the great and the good arriving and all the money that was expected to flow into the towns businesses from the crowds of visitors.

No doubt Llandudno was chosen largely because it’s a small, quiet, conservative (small ‘c’) town without much of a student population. But Conwy does have a thriving peace group that rightly took exception to this blatant promotion of militarism on their doorstep. Plans were made and on the day there were stalls and leafleters at key points, a vigil of people dressed in black, a 10 foot high CND sign that had the appearance of being made of stone and banners that were carried along the route of the parade.

It was a large area to cover and resources were necessarily stretched, and for an hour or so I was left alone with my home-made placard (Fund the NHS not Bombs!) and a pile of leaflets. I got a couple of nasty comments, but most of the people who spoke were supportive and very many people were obviously just there for a day out with the family.

The impact of the protest was enough that BBC Wales felt it could not ignore the protestors entirely and gave them a few seconds on the main news